What Takes Place In Mormon Temples?
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called by friends of other faiths, the “Mormon Church”) believe that temples are sacred holy places of worship. They believe that temples are literally houses of the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result of many misconceptions about Mormon temples and what goes on inside of them, D. Lauritsen, a Mormon professor, has written this response:
What Happens Inside Mormon Temples?
Brief Answer: In the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, worthy members receive instruction relating to the Creation, the Fall, and the redemption of mankind. In addition, attendees accept sacred covenants and participate in ordinances that the Lord has deemed essential for the exaltation of his children. This combination of instruction, covenants, and ordinances constitutes an individual’s temple endowment. When a man and a woman are engaged to be married and have received their respective temple endowments, they are eligible to be married in the temple and to have their marriage sealed for time and eternity (Matthew 18:18). If a couple is married by civil authority only, they can still become eligible to be sealed in the temple. All worthy members of the Church ages twelve and older have the privilege to enter the temple and be baptized and confirmed on behalf of those who have died without these saving ordinances (1 Corinthians 15:29).
Detailed Answer: First, it’s important to know what does not take place in the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Latter-day Saints are one with other Christian sects in the unreserved acceptance of the doctrine that the atoning death of Christ terminated the Mosaic rites of sacrifice involving the ceremonial shedding of blood. . . . [Thus] the temples of today are provided with no altars of sacrifice. . . . no pyres on which carcasses are burned, no censers of incense.1
The temple is rightly thought of as the university of gospel instruction, a sacred house of learning that provides a panoramic view of the Lord’s plan of happiness as it relates to earth, man, and eternal life. In keeping with the sacred nature of this instruction, members dress in white clothing symbolic of purity and worthiness while in the temple. The simplicity of the temple clothing also serves to enhance the atmosphere of unity, equality, and oneness.
Basic ordinances and temple ordinances: For Latter-day Saints, an ordinance is a symbolic rite or ceremony that has a specific religious meaning and confers spiritual power. The basic ordinances performed in the Church include baptism, confirmation, the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, naming and blessing of infants, administering to the sick, setting apart to callings in the Church, and ordaining to offices. The higher ordinances in the Church are performed in the temples. These ordinances include vicarious baptisms for the dead, washings, anointings, the endowment, and the sealing ordinance (often referred to as temple marriage).
The Mormon temple endowment: over the years, the Lord’s prophets and apostles have elaborated on the meaning of the temple endowment. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, a late apostle of Jesus Christ, observed:
To endow is to enrich, to give to another something long-lasting and of much worth. The temple endowment ordinances enrich in three ways: (a) The one receiving the ordinance is given power from God. ‘recipients are endowed with power from on high.’ (b) A recipient is also endowed with information and knowledge. (c) They receive instruction relative to the Lord’s purposes and plans.2
Commenting on the Mormon temple endowment, Brigham Young, deceased prophet of the Church, stated:
Let me give you a definition in brief. Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being able to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your exaltation in spite of earth and hell.3
Further elaborating on the content of the endowment, James E. Talmage, a late apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote:
The Temple Endowment, as administered in modern temples, comprises instruction relating to the significance and sequence of past dispensations, and the importance of the present as the greatest and grandest era in human history. The course of instruction includes a recital of the most prominent events of the creative period, the condition of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, their disobedience and consequent expulsion from that blissful abode, their condition in the lone and dreary world when doomed to live by labor and sweat, the plan of redemption by which the great transgression may be atoned, the period of the great apostasy, the restoration of the Gospel with all its ancient powers and privileges, the absolute and indispensable condition of personal purity and devotion to the right in present life, and a strict compliance with Gospel requirements.4
Temple covenants: In explaining the role of temple covenants, Elder Talmage noted:
The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as a covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King—the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions.5
Sacred, not secret: A careful examination of the scriptures indicates that Jesus did not disclose all things to all people. This was especially true following his resurrection, during what is referred to as his forty- day ministry. The New Testament mentions the forty-day ministry but provides only limited detail. For example, during this time, Jesus appeared to the Twelve with Thomas present (John 20:26–29) but no details are given. Jesus spoke of “things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3) but no specifics are disclosed. Finally, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not writ- ten in this book” (John 20:30). Apparently, there were teachings and doctrines that Jesus considered to be of such importance and depth that a certain degree of spiritual maturity and preparation were needed to understand and appreciate them.
Similarly, the teachings, ordinances, and covenants that constitute the temple endowment and temple sealing are of sufficient importance and depth that the Lord has stipulated certain requirements of age, spiritual maturity, and personal worthiness for those desiring to receive their endowment or sealing. Hence, the object of these requirements is not to impose secrecy but to preserve the sacredness of the temple ordinances, so that their recipients can more fully understand, appreciate, and live what they are taught in the temple.
Though the rites and ordinances of the temple are sacred and confidential, they were never intended to be limited to an exclusive few. Quite the contrary. By means of its 52,000 full-time missionaries and its fourteen million “member missionaries,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strives to bring the message and blessings of the temple to every man, woman, and family who desires and is willing to prepare for and receive these blessings.
Visit the official site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for more information about Mormon Temples.
Request a free copy of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
Attend a local meetinghouse.
1. James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1962), 93.
2. Bruce r. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 17–18.
3. Discourses of Brigham Young, comp. John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1971), 416.
4. Talmage, The House of the Lord, 99–100. 5. Ibid.
D. Lauritsen, Mormons Under a Microscope, (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2010), 45